Manipur film fraternity alleges medical negligence in cinematographer Irom Maipak’s death, demands probe

"Maipak was a gem of Manipuri cinema. Unfortunately, the state government has failed to recognise his contributions and he was not provided with any special facilities when he was struggling in hospital".

(Representational Image: Pixabay)

With the passing away of cinematographer Irom Maipak recently, the Manipur film fraternity which has not yet come out of mourning, expressed shock over the alleged medical negligence by the Raj Medicity hospital in his treatment. They also questioned the hospital authority for charging inflated bills for his treatment by taking undue advantage of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Earlier on May 29, the Manipur Students’ Federation (MSF) had urged the state government to take necessary action against Raj Medicity for flouting government regulations to curb over-charging of COVID-19 patients by private hospitals.

It may be recalled that the hospital put the family through a hard time in delaying the handing over of Maipak's body stating that without clearance of the entire bill in cash, the family member cannot take it away. An inflated bill of Rs 9 lakh for 15 days’ treatment was charged by the hospital.

MSFDS secretary, Sunzu Bachaspatimayum asked how the hospital authority has become so irresponsible in shifting the COVID-19 patient from ICU to a general ward. Knowing that the patient has been in a critical condition since the last 14 days, why are they in a hurry to empty the bed in ICU, he asked.

"A strong investigation needs to be done. The hospital authority should also be made to compensate for the entire loss of Maipak’s family," he added.

Filmmaker Haobam Pabankumar said that as Maipak’s health deteriorated while he was at home, his family was planning to admit him in a well-equipped hospital and they opted for Raj Medicity. However, he could not get admission as the hospital authority said that no bed was empty. This had also delayed the patient’s treatment in time, he stated.

Similar situation happened when his theatre maker uncle Ratan Thiyam, was taken to Raj Medicity. It took more than 24 hours to get a bed for him in the hospital. His uncle got admitted only after the chief minister intervened, he said.

Haobam further said that the state government should follow Tamil Nadu’s model by bearing the COVID-19 treatment expenses of the public in private hospitals. 

The Madras High Court had directed the Tamil Nadu government to look into the matter of charging exorbitant rates for treating COVID-19 patients in private hospitals. 

Maipak’s close friend and filmmaker Ronel Haobam said whatever the bills charged by the hospital authority in Raj Medicity are needed to be strictly monitored.

"The tragedy is private hospitals are into milking money while patient parties are struggling to save their loved ones," he added.

Filmmaker and social activist Ningthouja Lancha said, “Maipak was a gem of Manipuri cinema. Unfortunately, the state government has failed to recognise his contributions and he was not provided with any special facilities when he was struggling in hospital.”  

Lancha continued that a person like Irom Maipak should be considered as a cultural asset of the state and his medical expenses should have been borne by the government just like it is done in other East Asian countries like South Korea and Japan where artistes are much valued.

"Most of the private hospitals are into profiteering," he said, adding there has been gross negligence in the treatment of Maipak in Raj Medicity and the inflated bills charged by the hospital authority should be compensated to the bereaved family.  

Earlier, wife of Maipak, Rita Thounaojam had told the Imphal Free Press how her husband died in Raj Medicity. She said that after Maipak was admitted to the hospital on May 4, she received a call from the hospital’s customer care executive on May 18, saying that her husband was tested COVID-19 negative and as all the tests for internal organs were normal, he will be shifted to the general ward.

As Maipak’s condition was critical, she requested the hospital authority to keep her husband in the ICU but the hospital staff made the shift on the same night without the knowledge of the patient’s doctor (Dr Tamphasana Wairokpam). The doctor was informed about the shifting of the patient through a message sent by phone.

Rita further said that the same night before her husband was shifted to the general ward, she called up the hospital and the nurse handed over the phone to her husband. In the conversation, Maipak told her that he was feeling absolutely fine and his oxygen level had moved above 90 per cent. He also said that he started eating normally and managed to climb the stairs, she added.

However, the next morning around 7 am, her husband called her up from one of the patient’s mobile phone in the same ward, she said. He asked her to come to the hospital immediately, saying that he had difficulty breathing. He also said that he was not given oxygen the whole night in the ward and there was no attendant to look after him. When she reached the hospital, Maipak was already in the ICU. By that time, his oxygen level dropped drastically to 45 per cent and he became unconscious by late hours.

Apparently, the patient was not kept on observation and no oxygen was given as required. The doctor informed that the patient was shifted to the ward without her knowledge. Maipak was declared dead post midnight of May 19, said Rita.

First Published:June 2, 2021, 11:17 p.m.

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